WHEN Muhammad arose, Christianity had not obtained any very considerable hold upon the Arabs "After five centuries of Christian evangelization, we can point to but a sprinkling here and there of Christian converts: the Banu Harith of Najran, the Banu Hanifah of Yamamah, some of the Banu Tai at Taimah, and hardly any more 1." In his youth, we are told, Muhammad heard the preaching of Quss, the Bishop of Najran, and he met many monks and saw much of professing Christians when he visited Syria as a trader before his assumption of the prophetic office. But what he saw and heard of the Church had little effect upon him for good. Nor need we wonder at this. "What Muhammad and his Khalifahs found in all directions whither their scimitars cut a path for them," says Isaac Taylor 2, speaking of a somewhat later period in words which nevertheless describe Muhammad's early experience also, "was a superstition so abject, an idolatry so gross and shameless, church doctrines so arrogant, church practices so dissolute and so puerile, that the strong minded Arabians felt themselves inspired anew as God's messengers to reprove the errors of the world, and authorized as God's avengers to punish apostate Christendom" The Greek monk who wrote the History of the Martyrdom of Athanasius the Persian, speaking of the sufferings inflicted on the people of Palestine when it was for a brief space in the hands or the Persians in Muhammad's time, draws a fearful picture 3 of the wickedness of the professing Christians there, and does not hesitate to say that it was for this reason that God gave them over to the cruelty of their Zoroastrian persecutors. In the Book of Revelation (ix. 20, 21) the prevalence of idol-worship and other sins such as those described by this monk is given as the reason why the Muhammadan power was to be permitted to oppress the Eastern Church. Speaking of the same time Mosheim says," During 4 this century true religion lay buried under a senseless mass of superstitions, and was unable to raise her head. The earlier Christians had worshipped only God and His Son; but those called Christians in this century worshipped the wood of a cross, the images of holy men, and bones of dubious origin. The early Christians placed heaven and hell before the view of men; these latter talked only of a certain fire prepared to purge away the imperfections of the soul. The former taught that Christ had made expiation for the sins of men by His death and blood; the latter seemed to inculcate that the gates of heaven would be closed against none who should enrich the clergy or the Church with their donations. The former were studious to maintain a holy simplicity and to follow a pure and chaste piety; the latter placed the substance of religion in external rites and bodily exercises." The picture of Christianity which the Qur'an presents to us shows us what conception of it Muhammad had formed from his own limited experience. His knowledge of the Faith was at least powerfully affected by the teaching of the so-called "orthodox" party, who styled Mary "the Mother of God," and, by the abuse of a term so easily misunderstood, opened the way for the worship of a Jewish maiden in place of God Most High. The effect of this misconception is clearly pointed out by Ibn Ishaq In telling the story of the embassy sent by the Christians of Najran, who, he says, belonged to "the Emperor's faith," to Muhammad at Medina in A.D. 632, he tells us of the ambassadors t hat "Like 5 all the Christians, they said, 'Jesus is God, the Son of God, and the third of three.' .. They proved further that He is the third of three, namely God, Christ, and Mary." Of course this is not a true account of the language used, but that it represents correctly what Muhammad understood to be the doctrine held by these Christians is clear from the following verses of the Qur'an "Verily now they have blasphemed who say,' God is a third of three'" (Surah V., Al Maidah, 77): "And when God shall say,' O Jesus, Son of Mary, hast Thou said unto men, Take Me and My Mother as two Gods, beside God?"' (Surah V., 116). We can hardly wonder then that Muhammad rejected the Christianity thus presented to his notice. "Had he witnessed a purer exhibition of its rites and doctrines, And seen more of its reforming and regenerating influences, we cannot doubt that, in the sincerity of his early search after truth, he might readily have embraced and faithfully adhered to the faith of Jesus. Lamentable indeed is the reflection that so small a portion of the fair form of Christianity was disclosed by the ecclesiastics and monks of Syria, and that little how altered and distorted! Instead of the simple majesty of the Gospel's - as a revelation of God reconciling mankind to Himself through His Son-the sacred dogma of the Trinity was forced upon the traveler 6 with the misleading and offensive zeal of Eutychian and Jacobite partisanship, and the worship of Mary exhibited in so gross a form as to leave the impression upon the mind of Muhammad that she was held to be a goddess, if not the third Person and consort of the Deity. It must surely have been by such blasphemous extravagances that Muhammad was repelled from the true doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God, and led to regard Him only as Jesus, son of Mary,' the sole title by which He is spoken of in the Qur'an.'
We must not therefore forget that Muhammad was never brought into contact with pure Gospel Christianity; and it is largely to the false forms which the faith had then almost universally assumed that the rise of Islam is really due, since repulsion from these prevented Muhammad from ever really seeking to discover the truth contained in the Gospel, and thus impelled him to found a new and anti-Christian religion.
There seems to be no satisfactory proof that an Arabic version of the New Testament existed in Muhammad's time. Even in the "Orthodox" Church the Gospel was neglected in favour of legends of Saints, which appealed more to the popular taste for the marvellous. Arabia was a refuge for not a few heretics of different sects; and it is clear from the Qur'an (as we shall see) that, whether in written form or not, many of the mythical stories which are contained in the apocryphal Gospels and other similar works, together with certain heretical views on various subjects, must have reached Muhammad and have been accepted by him as true. That he should have believed these to form part of the Gospel, the name or which is so often mentioned in the Qur'an, is somewhat surprising: and the fact proves that none of his converts were earnest and well-taught Christians, and also that he must have felt far less interest in Christianity than he did in Talmudic Judaism. Those passages of the Qnr'an which deal at all fully with what Muhammad supposed to be the doctrines of Christianity date "from a period when his system was already, in great part, matured; and they were founded on information meagre, fabulous and crude ... We do not find a single ceremony or doctrine of Islam in any degree moulded, or even tinged, by the peculiar tenets of Christianity; while, on the contrary, Judaism has given its colour to the whole system, and lent to it the shape and type, if not the actual substance, of many ordinances 7."
Yet at the same time Muhammad desired to win over Christians as well as Jews to his faith. If they were far less numerous and powerful in Arabia than were the Jews, yet the established religion of the great Byzantine Empire must have possessed some importance in Muhammad's eyes, especially because, unless the Arabian Christians could be won over, political complications might arise. To what extent this latter feeling may have influenced Muhammad, it is impossible to say. At any rate, he appealed to the Gospel as a proof of his Divine Mission, even going so far as to state that Christ had prophesied of his coming 8, He speaks of Christ as "the Word of God 9," but denies His Divinity and His crucifixion, and shows a complete ignorance of the true doctrines of the Gospel. Yet in numerous passages he speaks of the latter with respect as a book of Divine authority, saying that it "descended on Jesus" out of heaven, and that the Qur'an itself came to confirm and preserve it (Surah V., Al Maidah, 52). He records the virgin birth of Christ and mentions some of His miracles, but even here the legendary tone predominates; and Muhammad seems to have learnt what little he knew of our lord and His Apostles from very unreliable hearsay. We shall see that the agreement in detail between what the Qur'an relates on these subjects and what may be found in apocryphal and heretical literature is very remarkable. Here again Muhammad seems to have had a wonderful talent for rejecting the true and accepting the false, just as in the case of the Jewish traditions referred to in the preceding chapter.
We proceed to prove this by referring to some of the fables dealing with Christian subjects contained in the Qur'an, indicating the sources from which they appear to have been derived.
The first with which we shall deal is the legend of the Companions of the Cave, which is thus related in Surah XVIII., Al Kahf, 8-25: -
"Hast thou considered that the Companions of the Cave and of Ar Raqim 10 were among our signs, a marvel? When the youths betook themselves to the cave they said, 'Our Lord, bring us mercy from Thyself and from our matter prepare for us guidance.' Accordingly we smote upon their ears in the cave a number of years. Afterwards We aroused them that we might know which of the two parties 11 had reckoned unto what [time] they had remained-an age. We shall relate to thee the account of them with truth: Verily they were youths who believed in their Lord, and we increased guidance unto them. And we girt up their hearts when they stood up: then said they, 'Our Lord is Lord of the heavens and of the earth, we shall never call any beside Him God, then had we uttered a boundless lie. These our people have taken gods beside Him, unless they bring clear authority for them: who then is more unjust than he who bath devised a lie against God? And when ye have withdrawn from them and from what they worship beside God, then betake yourselves to the cave: thus your Lord will unfold unto you of His mercy and will prepare for you advantage out of your matter.' And thou seest the sun when it riseth recede from their cave towards the right hand, and when it setteth turn 12 aside from them towards the left hand, and they were in an interstice of it 13: that is one of God's signs. Whomsoever then God guideth, he is guided, and for him whom He misguideth thou shalt never find a patron, a guide. And thou wouldst reckon them awake, though they are asleep; and We turn: them over towards the right hand and towards the left hand. And their dog stretcheth out his forepaws on the threshold; and if thou hadst come upon them thou wouldst indeed have turned from them in flight, and thou wouldst have been filled with dread of them. And therefore did We arouse them that they might inquire of one another. A speaker from among them said, 'How long have ye remained?' They said, 'We have remained a day, or portion of a day.' They said, 'Your Lord knowest well how long ye have remained. Send therefore one of you with this your coin into the city, then let him see which man of it has the purest food, and let him bring you provision from him, and let him be kind, and let him not inform anyone concerning you. Verily, if they discover you, they will stone you or bring you hack into their community, and then for ever ye shall never prosper.' And thus we made it known concerning them, that men might know that God's promise is true, and that as to the Hour 14 there is no doubt about it. When they argued among themselves about their matter, then they said, 'Build a building over them: their Lord knoweth well about them.' Those who prevailed in their matter said, 'We shall surely erect a mosque over them.' They will say, 'They were three: the fourth of them was their dog:' and they will say, 'There were five; the sixth of them was their dog:, a conjecture concerning the mystery: and they will say, 'They were seven; the eighth of them was their dog.' Say thou 15, 'My lord is well aware of their number: none but a few know about them.'..... And they remained in their cave three hundred years, and they added nine. Say thou 15, 'God is well aware how long they remained: to Him belongeth the mystery of the heavens and of the earth.'"
To understand this rather hesitating account we must remember that, as the commentators inform us, some of the heathen 16 Arabs of Mecca had challenged longed Muhammad to tell them the story of the Companions of the Cave, if he could, in order to test his claim to inspiration. The story was evidently therefore current among them in some form, perhaps in more than one. There was a dispute concerning the number of persons who went into the cave, and various opinions were stated on the subject. Muhammad, as is evident from verses 22 and 23 which we have omitted, promised to give them an answer on the morrow, purposing apparently to inquire of some one about the matter. He evidently failed to obtain certain information, hence he left the question of the number of the youths unsettled, and his attempt to get out of the difficulty is not very successful. Nor does he tell the place where or the time when the event is said to have occurred. He ventures, however, to assert: positively just one fact,-that the time spent in the cave was 309 years. Unfortunately, as we shall see, even in this he was wrong. He has no doubt, however, that the event recorded in the story - really occurred. From the whole style of the passage we perceive that Muhammad had no written document and no reliable informant at hand who could give him exact particulars of the affair. None the less we possess more than one form of the legend, written before Muhammad's t ime: and it is clear that to an oral form of the story he was indebted for the particulars given in the Qur'an, and not to Divine revelation, as he claimed to be. The Syriac writer, Jacob of Sarug, in a homily published in the Acta Sanctorum, gives the myth at some length. He died .A.D. 521. Other early Syriac forms of the story are known 17. Most accounts say that there were "Seven Sleepers," hence the name by which the tale is generally known in Europe, but one Syriac MS. of the sixth century 18 in the British Museum says they numbered eight. Muhammadan commentators 19 on the Qur'an relate traditions, some of which say that they were seven, others asserting that they numbered eight, a point which Muhammad practically in the Qur'an acknowledged his inability to decide. As far as we know, the first European writer to relate the legend was Gregory of Tours 20. He tells us that in the reign of the Emperor Decius (A.D. 249-51) seven noble young Christians of Ephesus fled from persecution and took refuge in a cave not far from the city. After a time, however, their enemies discovered where they were and blocked up the entrance to the cave, leaving them to die of hunger. When Theodosius II was on the throne, 196 years later, a herdsman found and opened the cave. The Seven Sleepers then awoke from the slumber in which they had remained during the whole time, and (as the Qur'an says also) sent one of the party to the city to purchase provisions. He found Christianity everywhere triumphant, to his boundless surprise. At a shop where he bought some food, he produced a coin of Decius to pay for it. Accused of having discovered a hidden treasure, he told the story of himself and his companions. When he led the way to the cave, the appearance of his companions, still young and radiant with a celestial brightness, proved the truth of his story. The Emperor soon heard of it, and went in person to the cave, where the awakened sleepers told him that God had preserved them in order to prove to him the truth of the immortality of the soul. Having delivered their message, they expired.
It is quite unnecessary to comment on the exceeding silliness of the tale as told in the Qur'an, though in this respect Muhammad cannot be deserving of more blame for accepting it as true than the ignorant Christians, by whom it was so widely spread and in all probability invented. It is quite possible that the story was originally intended to be an allegory, or more probably a religious romance, framed with the intention of showing with what wonderful rapidity the Christian faith had spread, through the courage and faithfulness even unto death of so many of its professors. Be this as it may, it is undoubtedly the case that long before Muhammad's day the legend had obtained credence in many parts of the East, and even apparently in Mecca it was believed in his time. Muhammad's fault lay in pretending that he had received it as a Divine revelation, whereas it is as little worthy of credence as the tale of St. George and the Dragon (also probably an allegory), or Cinderella and the Glass Slipper or the Batrachomyomachia among the Greeks, or the tales of Rustam's marvellous exploits among the Persians 21.
The history of Mary, as related in the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet, is taken almost entirely from the apocryphal Gospels and works of that character. Muhammad has, however, introduced into it another element of error, the source of which we mnst trace before entering upon the narrative itself.
In Surah XIX., Maryam, 28, 29, we are told that when Mary came to her people after the birth of our Lord, they Said to her, "O Mary, truly thou hast done a strange thing. O sister of Aaron, thy father was not a man of wickedness, and thy mother was not rebellious." From these words it is evident that, in Muhammad's opinion, Mary was identical with Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron 22! This is made still more clear by Surah LVI., At Tahrim, 12, where Mary is styled "the daughter of "Imran" the latter being the Arabic form of Amram, who in the Pentateuch is called the father of "Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister" (Num. xxvi. 59). The title "sister of Aaron" is given to Miriam in Exod xv. 20, and it must be from this passage that Muhammad borrowed the expression. The reason of the mistake which identifies the Mother of our Saviour with a woman who lived abont one thousand five hundred and seventy years before His birth is evidently the fact that in Arabic both names, Mary and Miriam, are one and the same in form, Maryam. The chronological difficulty of the identification does not seem to have occurred to Muhammad. It puts us in mind of the tale in the Shahnameh, where Fardausi tells us that when the hero Faridan had defeated Dahhak (in Persian pronounced Zahhak), he found in the tyrant's castle two sisters of Jamshid, who were kept in confinement there. Faridan was, we are told, smitten with their charms. This is an instance 23 of "bonus dormitat Homerus" on some one's part, for from other parts of the poem we learn that these fair damsels had remained in Dahhak's custody from the beginning of the latter's reign, nearly one thousand years before! Muhammad's error, however, is chronologically far more senous even than this, which may be permissible in a romance but not in Revelation." Muhammadan commentators have in vain attempted to disprove this charge of historical inaccuracy.
If it be necessary to adduce any other explanation of Muhammad's blunder, it has been suggested 24 that it may be found in the Jewish tradition which asserts regarding Miriam that "The Angel of Death did not exercise dominion over her, but on the contrary she died with a (Divine) kiss, and worms and insects did not exercise dominion over her." But, even so, the Jews never ventured to assert that Miriam remained alive until the time of Christ, nor to identify her with the Virgin Mary.
Let us now see what the Qur'an and the Traditions relate regarding the latter.
In Surah III, Al Imran31,32, we read: -
"When 'Imran's wife said, 'My lord, verily I have dedicated to Thee what is in my womb, as consecrated: receive it therefore from me: verily Thou art the Hearer, the Knower.' When therefore she bore her, she said, 'My Lord, verily I have borne her, a female '-and God was well aware of what she had borne, and the male is not as the female-' and verily I have named her Mary, and verily I commit, her and her seed unto Thee from Satan the stoned.' Accordingly her Lord received her with fair acceptance, and He made her grow with fair growth, and Zacharias reared her. Whenever Zacharias entered the shrine unto her, he found food near her. He said, 'O Mary, whence is this to thee?' She said, 'It is from God: verily God feedeth whomsoever He willeth, without a reckoning.'"
In addition to and explanation of this narrative, Baidawi and other cominentators and traditionists inform us of the following particulars. Imran's wife was barren and advanced in age. One day, on seeing a bird giving food to its young ones, she longed for offspring, and entreated that God would bestow on her a child. She said, "O my God, if Thou givest me a child, whether it be a son or a daughter, I shall offer it as a gift in Thy presence in the Temple at Jerusalem." God heard and answered her prayer, and she conceived and bore a daughter, Mary. Jalalu'ddin tells us that the name of Mary's mother was Hanna. When she brought Mary to the Temple and handed her over to the priests, they accepted the offering and appointed Zacharias to guard the child. He placed her in a room, and permitted no one but himself 25 to enter it; but an angel supplied her with her daily food.
Returning to the Qur'an (Surah III., 37~42), we learn that, when Mary was older, 'The angels said, 'O Mary, verily God hath chosen thee and purified thee, and He hath chosen thee above the women of the worlds. O Mary, be devont to thy Lord, and worship, and how with those that bow.' That is part of the announcement of the invisible; we reveal it to thee 26; and thou 262 wast not with them when they threw their reeds (to see) which of them should rear Mary: and thou 26 wast not with then when they disagreed. When the angels said, 'O Mary. verily God giveth thee good tidings of a Word from Himself, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus Son of Mary, illustrious in the world and in the hereafter, and from among those who draw near (to God): and He shall speak to men in the cradle and when grown up, and He is of the Just Ones,' she said, 'My lord, whence shall I have a child, since no human being hath touched me He said, 'Thus God createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a matter, then indeed He saith to it, Be! - therefore it exists.'"
In reference to what is said in these verses about "casting reeds" or pens, Baidawi and Jalalu'ddin state that Zacharias and twenty-six other priests were rivals to one another in their desire to be Mary's guardian. They therefore went to the bank of the Jordan and threw their reeds into the water; but all the reeds sank except that of Zacharias, and on this account the latter was appointed her guardian.
Turning to Surah XIX., Maryam, 16-35, we find there the following narrative of the birth of Christ:
"And in the Book 27 do thou 28 mention Mary, when she retired from her family to an Eastern place. Then apart from them she assumed a veil. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit 29 accordingly he showed himself to her as a well-formed human being. She said, 'Verily I take refuge in the Merciful One from thee, if thou art God - fearing.' He said, 'Truly I am a messenger of thy Lord that I should give to thee a pure man-child.' She said, 'Whence shall I have a man-chfld, since no human being hath touched me, and I am not rebellions30?' He said, 'Thus hath thy Lord said, It is easy for Me, and let Us make Him a sign unto men and a mercy from us, and it is a thing decided.' Accordingly she conceived Him 31: then she retired with him to a distant place. Then labour-pains brought her to the trunk of the palm-tree 32. She said, 'O would that I had died ere this and had become forgotten, forgotten !' Thereupon he 33 called aloud to her from beneath her: 'Grieve thou not; thy lord hath made a brook beneath thee. And do thou shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: it shall let fall upon thee freshly-gathered dates. But therefore and drink and brighten thy eye 34; then, if thou seest any human being, then say, Verily I have vowed unto my Lord a fast, therefore I shall surely not speak to any man today.' Accordingly she brought Him 36 to her people, carrying Him. They said, 'O Mary, truly thou hast done a vile thing. O sister of Aaron, thy father was not a man of wickedness, and thy mother was not rebellious 36,' Then she made a sign unto Him 35. They said, How shall we speak to one who is a child in the cradle?' He 37 said, 'Verily I am God's servant: He hath brought Me the Book 38 and hath made Me a Prophet. And He hath made Me blessed whereever I am, and hath prescribed for Me prayer and alms, as long as I live, and to be well-behaved to My mother, and He hath not made Me violent, wretched. And peace upon Me the day I was born, and the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised up alive.' That is Jesus, Son of Mary; a statement of the truth, concerning which they doubt"
We can trace every single matter here mentioned to some apocryphal source, as will be evident from the passages which we now proceed to adduce.
In the Protevangelium of James the Less 39 in reference to Mary's birth, we read:
And having gazed fixedly into the sky Anna 40 saw a nest of sparrows in the hay-tree, and she made lamentation in herself, saying, 'Woe is me! woe is me who hath begotten me ... Woe is me! to what am I likened? I am not likened to the birds of the air, for even the birds of the air are productive in thy sight, O Lord.'.... And lo! an angel of the Lord stood by, saying unto her, 'Anna! Anna! the Lord God hath hearkened unto thy petition; thou shalt conceive and shalt bear, and thy seed shall he spoken of in all the world.' But Anna said, 'As the Lord my God liveth, if I bear either male or female. I shall offer it as a gift unto the Lord my God, and it shall continue to do Him service all the days of its life.' . . . But her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth.... And she gave breast to the child and called her Mary.'
The tale then proceeds to tell how, when the child was old enough to leave her mother, she was taken to the Temple at Jerusalem by Anna, according to her vow. It then continues:-
"The 41 priest accepted her and kissed and blessed her and said, 'The Lord God hath magnified thy name amid all the generations of the earth : upon thee at the end of the days shall the Lord God manifest the redemption of the Children of Israel.'
... But Mary was like a dove reared in the Lord's shrine , and she was wont to receive food from an angel's hand. But when she became twelve years of age, there was held a council of the priests, who said, 'Lo! Mary hath become twelve years old in the shrine of the Lord, what therefore are we to do with her?'. . And lo! an angel of the Lord stood by him, saying, 'Zacharias Zacharias! go forth and call together the widowers of the people, and let them bring each a rod, and to whomsoever the Lord God shall show a sign, his wife shall she be.' And the heralds went forth throughout all the coast of Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and they all ran. But Joseph, tasting away his adze, himself ran also into the synagogue: and having been assembled they went away unto the priest. And the priest took the rods of all, and went into the Temple and prayed. But having ended his prayer he came forth and gave to each one his rod, and there was no sign in them. But Joseph received the last rod. And lo! a dove came forth from the rod and flew up upon Joseph's head. And the priest said unto him, Thou hast obtained by lot to receive the virgin of the Lord: receive her unto thyself to guard.'. . And Joseph, being afrighted, received her to guard. . . . But Mary, having taken a pitcher, went out to fill it with water. And lo! a voice, saying, 'Hail, O highly favoured! the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And she looked around to right and left [to see] whence this voice came. And having become alarmed she departed unto her house; and having set down the pitcher . . she sat down upon the seat. . . . And lo! an angel of the Lord stood by, saying unto her, 'Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour in God's sight, and thou shalt conceive from His Word .' But Mary having heard considered in herself, saying, 'Shall I conceive according as every woman beareth?' And the angel saith unto her, 'Not thus, Mary; for the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also the holy thing that is to be born shall be called Son of the Highest: and thou shalt call His name Jesus."
The legend of Mary's being brought up in the Temple is found in many other apocryphal works besides the one we have here quoted. For example, in the Coptic "History of the Virgin 42" we read:-
"She was nourished in the Temple like the doves, and food was brought to her from the heavens by the angels of God. And she was wont to do service in the Temple; the angels of God used to minister unto her. But they used-often to bring her fruits also from the Tree of Life, that she might eat of them with joy." And in another Coptic work entitled the "Story of the Decease of Joseph 43" the following passage occurs: - "Mary used to dwell in the Temple and worship there with holiness, and she grew up until she became twelve years old. In her parents' house she abode three years, and in the Temple of the Lord nine years more. Then the priests, when they perceived that that virgin lived chastely and dwelt in the fear of the Lord, spake to one another, saying, 'Let us seek out a good man and betroth her unto him until the time of the marriage-feast.... And they forthwith summoned the tribe of Judah and chose out from it twelve men according to the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The lot fell upon that good old man, Joseph."
Returning now to the Protevangelium, we are told that when the fact became known that Mary had conceived, Joseph and she were brought before the priests for judgment. The story then goes on:-
"And 44 the priest said, 'Mary, why hast thou done this and hast humbled thy soul? Thou hast forgotten the Lord thy God, thou who wast brought up in the Holy of Holies and didst receive food at an angel's hand, and didst hear the hymns ... Why hast thou done this?' But she wept bitterly, saying, 'As the Lord God liveth, I am pure in His sight, and I know not a man.'"
Afterwards we are informed that Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Failing to find room in the caravansani at the latter place, they went to abide in a cave, and there the Lord Jesus was born. The words of the original, omitting as usual everything not connected with our present purpose, may be thus translated:-
And 45 he found a cave and led her in..... But 46 I. Joseph,. looked up into the heaven and saw the vault of the heaven stationary 47 and the birds of the air trembling. And I looked upon the earth, and , who were raising [the food to their lips] did not raise it, and those who were putting it into their mouths did not put it in, but the faces of them all were looking upwards. And I saw sheep being driven, and the sheep stood still; but the shepherd raised [his crook] to smite them, and his hand remained aloft. And I looked to the torrent and saw kids, and their mouths were applied to the water and not drinking, and all things astounded."
The incident of Mary and the palm-tree as related above (Surah XIX Maryam, 23-6) is apparently taken from the apocryphal work entitled "History of the Nativity of Mary and the Infancy of the Saviour" although, as we shall see, we can trace both accounts to a probably more ancient source. In the book to which we have just referred, the event is connected with the Flight into Egypt. The tale records how the Holy Family started on the journey and for two days travelled on quietly. It then continues: -
"But 48 on the third day after he had set out, it came to pass that Mary became exhausted in the desert through the excessive heat of the sun. When therefore she saw a tree, she said unto Joseph, 'Let us rest a little while under the shadow of this tree.' And Joseph hasted and brought her to that palm-tree, and took her down off her beast. When Mary sat down, she looked up to the top of the palm-tree, and seeing it full of fruit said to Joseph, 'I desire, if it be possible, to take of the fruit of this palm-tree.' And Joseph said unto her, 'I marvel that thou speakest thus, since thou seest how high the branches of this palm-tree are. But I am extremely anxious about water, for it has now been exhausted in our skin-bottles, and have nowhere whence we can fill them and quench our thirst.' Then the Child Jesus, who with joyful countenance lay in His mother the Virgin Mary's bosom, said to the palm-tree, O tree, lower thy branches and refresh My mother with thy fruit.' Instantly the palm-tree at this word bowed its head to the sole of Mary's feet: and they plucked the fruit which it bore, and were refreshed. And afterwards, when all its fruit had be plucked, the tree still remained bent, since it was waiting to rise up at the command of Him, whose command it had bowed down. Then Jesus said unto it, 'O palm-tree, arise and be of good cheer, and be thou a companion of My trees that are in My Father's Paradise. But with thy roots open the spring that is hidden in the ground, and let water flow forth from that spring to quench our thirst.' And the palm-tree instantly stood erect, and streams of very clear, cool, and very sweet water began to come forth from amid its roots. And when they beheld those streams of water, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy; and they with all their quadrupeds and attendants were satisfied and thanked God."
Instead of connecting the palm-tree and the stream that flowed from beneath it with account of the Flight into Egypt, the Qur'an, we have seen, connects them very closely with birth of Christ, representing Him as having been born at the foot of the tree, and at that moment (according to one explanation) directing the tree to let its fruit fall for Mary to eat, and telling her of the flowing streamlet. From its accordance with this apocryphal Gospel in this respect, it is evident that this explanation of the words of the Qur'an is more likely to be correct than the gloss which attributes the speech to Gabriel.
But we have now to inquire from what source the Qur'an borrowed the idea that Christ was born at the foot of a tree: and also what is the origin of the legend that the tree bowed down to let the mother and Child eat of its fruit. It is hardly necessary to say that for neither the one statement nor the other is there the very slightest foundation in the Canonical Gospels.
The source of both incidents is found in the books of the Buddhist Pali Canon, which, as we are informed in the Maha-Vamso, was reduced to writing in the reign of King Vattagamani of Ceylon, probably about 80 B.C. at latest 49. But it is very possible that very considerable parts of these Pali books were composed several hundred years earlier. The legends contained in them were, in later but still very early times, widely spread, not only in India and Ceylon but also in Central Asia, China, Tibet, and other lands. Buddhist missionaries are mentioned in Yesht XIII., 16, as having appeared in Persia as early as the second century before Christ. The influence which Buddhism exercised on thought throughout Western, well as Central, Eastern and Southern, Asia was immense. Manichaism, Gnosticism and other heresies were largely due to this, as was the rise Monasticism 50. Several psssages in the apocrophal Gospels show that ideas of Buddhist origin had gained access to the minds of the writers of these spurious works, though doubtless these men were quite unaware of the real source of their inspiration. It was easy for Muhammad therefore to be misled in the sarne way; and we can point to the very passages in the Pali books which represent the earliest known form of the legends about the tree.
One of these occurs in the Nidanakatha Jatakam (cap. i., pp. 50-3). There we are told that when Maya, who was to he the mother of Gotamo Buddha, was with child and knew that her time was at hand, she obtained her husband Suddhodano's permission to return to her father's house to be delivered, according to the custom of that country. On the journey she and her hanilmaidens entered a beautiful forest, and Princess Maya greatly admired the abundant flowers which she saw on some of the trees. In the words of the passage to which we refer, the account of what then took place runs thus:- "She 51, having gone to the foot of a well-omened Sal-tree, became desirous of grasping a branch of the Sal-tree. The Sal - tree branch, having bent down like the end of a stick well softened with steam, came within the reach of the princess's hand. She, having stretched out her hand, seized the branch....Childbirth came upon her just as she stood, grasping the branch of the Sal - tree."
The differences between this and the account of Christ's birth as related in the passage in the Qur'an which we have quoted above are but slight. Muhammad mentions a palm-tree, the best-known of all trees to an Arab, in place of the species of flowering tree mentioned in the Buddhist book, since the Sal-tree of India does not grow in Arabia. Doubtless the legend had changed in this way in its transmission, as is generally the case in similar tales. The Indian legend intimates that the exertion made by Buddha's mother in reaching after the flowers growing on the branch above her head brought on the child's birth unexpectedly. The Qur'an seems to give no such good reason at all for the birth occurring below the palm-tree. But the stories are evidently one and the same. We notice here, as in the Qur'an, that the tree bent down its branches to let Maya pluck the flowers, or, as the Qur'an has it, let its ripe dates fall upon Mary.
The other account of this latter incident, - that given in the apocryphal Gospel, - is connected with the Flight into Egypt, when out Lord was an infant. This is parallel with what we read in the Cariya -Pitakam, (cap. i., poem ix.). There we are informed that in a former birth Buddha was a prince called Vessantaro. Having offended his people, he was banished from his kingdom, along with his wife and two little children. As they wandered towards the distant mountains, where they wished to find an asylum, the children became hungry. Then, the Buddhist narrative tells us.'
If 52 the children see fruit-bearing trees on the mountain-side, the children weep for their fruit. Having seen the children weeping, the great lofty trees, having even of themselves bowed down, approach the children."
It is clear that both the Qur'an and the author of the apocryphal "History of the Nativity of Mary " have unconsciously borrowed from Buddhist sources these particular incidents. This fact of course disproves the truth of the narrative.
Were proof required to show that, even as late as Muhammad's time, Buddhist legends were prevalent in Western Asia and were accepted as Christian history, it would be afforded by the existence of the tale of "Barlaam and Josaphat." This legend was written in Greek in the sixth century of the Christian era, as some hold, though it is more generally attributed to Johannes Damascenus, who flourished at the court of the Khalifah Al Mansur (A.D. 753-74). Josaphat. the Christian prince of the book, is undoubtedly Buddha himself, and his name is a corruption of Bodhisattva, one of Buddha's many titles. The main source of the tale is the Sanskrit legendary story of Buddha known as the Lalita Vistara. Yet Josaphat is a saint in both the Greek and the Roman Churches, in the former of which August 26 is sacred to him, in the latter November 27.
In what has been already related we have learnt something of what the Qur'an teaches on this subject. But we must now deal with the matter more at length. In Surah III, Al 'Imran, 41, 43, we are informed that before Christ's birth the Angel said of Him -"And He shall speak to men in the cradle".... And in Surah XIX, Maryam, 29-31, as we have already seen, we are informed that, when the Virgin Mary's people reproached her, she made a sign towards the Child, implying that they should ask Him of His origin. They said in surprise, "How shall we talk with one who is a child in the cradle?" Then the Child Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Verily I am God's Servant: He bath brought Me the Book and made Me a Prophet."
The origin of this legend is not far to seek. We have already seen that one of the apocryphal Gospels represents Christ, when on His journey to Egypt in His infancy, as addressing the palm- tree and bidding it how down and permit His Mother to pluck its fruit. But probably the source from which Muhammad borrowed the incident is Injilu't Tufuliyyah, better known as the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. In the first chapter of that work we read:-
We have found it recorded in the book of Josephus the Chief Priest, who was in the time of Christ (and men say that he was Caiaphas), that this man said that Jesus spake when He was in the cradle, and said to Mary His Mother, 'Verily I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Word which thou hast borne, according as the angel Gabriel gave thee the good news; and My Father hath sent Me for the salvation of the world.'"
Of course Muhammad could not represent Christ as using the words which this apocryphal Gospel attributes to Him, for in the Qur'an the Divine Sonship of Christ is everywhere denied. Therefore, while believing and stating that Jesus spoke when an infant in the cradle, Muhammad in his account has put into His mouth words which seemed to him more suitable and more consonant with Islam. Otherwise the story is the same.
The style of the Arabic of this apocryphal Gospel, however. is so bad that it is hardly possible to believe that it dates from Muhammad's time. As, however. Arabic has never been supposed to be the language in which the work was composed, this is a matter of little or no consequence. From a study of the book there seems little room for doubt that it has been translated into Arabic from the Coptic, in which language it may have been composed. This explains in what way Muhammad most probably became acquainted with the legend. For it is a well-known fact that the Christian governor of Egypt sent him a present of two Coptic girls, one of whom, "Mary the Copt," became one of his favourite concubines, This girl, though not well acquainted with the Gospel, must doubtless have known so popular a legend as that contained in the "Gospel of the Infancy" at that time was. Muhammad probably learnt the tale from her, and, fancying it to be contained in the Gospels universally accepted by Christians as of Divine authority, he on that account incorporated it into the Qur'an. Of course it is possible that he had others besides Mary who told him Coptic legends, but, whoever his informant or informants may have been, it is clear that the source of the story of the miracle is the one we have mentioned.
Now the Arabic "Gospel of the Infancy" is one of a number of apocryphal works of late or of uncertain date, which were never by any Christian sect regarded as inspired. Others of the same class which have left their mark upon the Qur'an are the "Gospel of Thomas the Israelite," the "Protevangelium of James", the "Gospel of Nicodemus" (otherwise called the "Gesta Pilati"), and the" Narrative of Joseph of Arimathaea ." Muhammad, as has been already observed, seems to have had a peculiar gift for discovering unreliable sources of information, for he never appears to quote one which is merely of doubtful authority. These books and others like them, though very popular among ignorant Christians then and even in later times, can hardly be said to have been intended to impose on any one, they are so manifestly religious romances. They dealt with matters concerning which much curiosity was very naturally felt, and were therefore welcomed by men who did not care to inquire whether what they read was true or false. They were quite contented to believe that these stories were old traditions and dealt with subjects on which the canonical books gave little or no information. No doubt some persons gave credit to these legends, but no man of any learning can be mentioned who did so in the case of any one of the books we have named. They were not even deemed of sufficient importance to be included among the Antilegomena. Some of them inay have been reconstructed on the basis of earlier works that have perished, though with the addition of many fabulous elements. But whether this be so or not, they are sometimes found to incorporate legends of considerable antiquity, if of no authority. We have seen instances in which certain stories can be traced to very ancient Buddhist fables. The tale of Jesus speaking to men when He was still an infant in the cradle is another example of somewhat the same kind, though it cannot be traced back to the Pali Canon. The same tale is told of Buddha in the Lalita Vistara in the Buddha-Carita53, and in other Sanskrit works. In the "Romantic legend 54 " we are gravely informed that, as soon as he was born, Buddha "forthwith walked seven steps towards each quarter of the horizon; and, as he walked, at each step there sprang from the earth beneath his feet a lotus flower; and; as he looked steadfastly in each direction, his month uttered these words, ....'In all the world I am the very chief.' " In another 55 Chinese Sanskrit work the same story is told, with this difference that Buddha's words are there said to have been, "This' birth is in the condition of a Buddha: after this I have done with renewed birth: now only am I born this once, for the purpose of saving all the world. '' It will be noticed that, making allowance for the difference between the non-theistic Buddhist system and the Christian one, this last quotation bears a considerable reseinblance to the words attributed to the infant Christ in our quotation from the Arabic "Gospel of the Infancy": in fact the concluding words of the latter are almost a verbal translation of the former 56.
The supposed fact that our lord spoke in His cradle is also asserted in the following passage from Surah V., Al Maidah, 109, 110, together with other matters which we shall now consider. For convenience' sake we quote both verses in full: -
When God said, 'O Jesus, Son of Mary, remember My favour towards Thee and towards Thy mother, when I strengthened Thee with the Holy Spirit; Thou dost speak unto men in the cradle and as an adult: and when I taught Thee the Book and wisdom and the law and the Gospel; and when Thou dost create from clay as it were the figure of a bird by My permission, then Thou dost breathe into it, thereupon it becometh a bird by My permission; and Thou dost cleanse the blind and the leper by My permission; and when Thou dost bring forth the dead by My permission; and when I restrained the Children of Israel from Thee, when Thou didst come to them with the evident signs: therefore those of them who disbelieved said, This is nothing except evident magic.'"
What is here related of our Lord's miracles of healing the blind, cleansing the leper and raising the dead, may he derived indirectly from the four canonical Gospels, though similar events are not excluded - as they could not well be - from the apocryphal Gospels. But the point of importance for our present purpose is what is said about His creating a bird out of clay and giving it life. This incident is derived from the apocryphal "Gospel of Thomas the Israelite," in the second chapter of which we read: -
"This child, Jesus, having become five years old, was playing at the crossing of a brook, and He had collected together into pools the running waters and was making them clean forthwith, and with a single word did He command then'. And having made some clay fine, He formed out of it twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when He did these things. There were, however, many other children also playing with Him. But a certain Jew, having seen what Jesus was doing, that He was playing on the Sabbath day, went away immediately and told His father Joseph, 'Lo! thy child is at the brook, and having taken clay He hath formed twelve little birds out of it, and He hath profaned the Sabbath.' And Joseph, having come to the spot and having seen, cried out to Him, saying, 'Why dost Thou on the Sabbath do these things which it is not lawful to do?' But Jesus, having clapped His hands together, cried out to the sparrows and said to them, 'Go!' And the sparrows, having taken flight, departed twittering. But the Jews, having seen this, were astounded; and having gone away they related to their chief men what they saw that Jesus did."
It is worthy of note that the whole of this fable occurs twice over in the Arabic "Gospel of the Infancy," in chapter xxxvi, and again in another form in chapter xivi. The reason of this is that the latter part of the book is taken from the "Gospel of Thomas the Israelite."
We notice here again that, while the legend is evidently the same as that briefly referred to in the Qur'an, yet the difference is sufficient to prove that Muhammad was reproducing a shortened form of it from memory, and was not consulting any written document. Hence he mentions only one bird instead of twelve, and speaks of life being given to it by the breath of Jesus and not by a command of His. The brief reference made to the tale in the Qur'an shows that the story had obtained wide currency and was generally believed at the time. This again proves how little knowledge of the New Testament there then was in Medina; for not only are no such accounts of miracles performed by our Saviour in His childhood recorded in the canonical Gospels, but John ii. 11 shows that none were wrought until after His Baptism at the age of about thirty.
This supposed miracle of Christ is related in Surah V., Al Maidah 112-15, and gives it name 57 to the Surah. Translated as literally as possible, the tale runs thus: -
"When the Apostles 58 said 'O Jesus, Son of Mary, can Thy lord cause a Table to descend upon us from the heaven?' He said, "Fear ye God, if be believers.' They said, 'We desire to eat from it and that our hearts be confirmed, and that we may know that Thou hast told us truth and may be witnesses unto it 59.' Jesus, Son of Mary, said, 'O God' our Lord, cause a table to descend unto us from the heaven which shall be a festival unto us, to the first of us and to the last of us 60, and a sign from Thee, and feed Thou us: and Thou art the best of feeders.' God said, 'Verily I cause it to descend unto you: but whosoever among you thereafter shall disbelieve, I shall assuredly punish him with a punishment where-with I shall not punish any other creature.'"
Unless there be some Ethiopian legend on the subject which the early Muslim refugees had brought back with them from that country', we must trace this myth to a misunderstanding of certain passages in the New Testament. If there be some such legend found elsewhere, which we have not traced, it must have had the same ultimate source. One of the New Testament passages which doubtless helped to give rise to it is the verse (Luke xx. 30) in which our Lord says to His disciples, "That ye may eat and drink at My Table in My kingdom." Muhammad doubtless knew that the Christians celebrated the Lord's Supper, in accordance with Matt. xxvi 20-9; Mark xiv. 17-25; Luke xxii.14-30; John xiii. 1-30; and 1 Cor. xi. 20-34. But what doubtless led to the idea that the Table descended from Heaven was the passage in the Acts of the Apostles (x. 9-16), in which we read the following account of Peter's vision:-
"Peter went up upon the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour: and he became hungry, and desired to eat : but while they made ready, he fell into a trance; and he beholdeth the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet, let down by the fours corners upon the earth : wherein were all manner of four footed beasts and creeping things of the earth and fowls of the heaven. And there came a voice to him 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But Peter said, 'Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.' And a voice came unto him again the second time, 'What God hath cleansed, make not thou common.' And this was done thrice: and straightway the vessel was received up into heaven."
The concluding words of the passage which we have quoted from Surah Al Maidah are an additional proof that Muhammad was thinking of the Lord's Supper, for they seem to be a faint echo of St. Paul's warning against unworthily partaking of that sacrament (I Cor. xi. 27-9).
The whole passage is an additional proof of how very little knowledge of the New Testament Muhammad had. No one who had read the book or heard it read could have confounded Peter's vision with the institution of the lord's Supper, or transformed that vision into the descent of a table of provisions from heaven in our Lord's lifetime. The passage is an interesting illustration of the way in which legends grow.
In the early part of the present chapter we have briefly referred to this subject, but it must be again noticed here to make our treatment of the influence of "Christian" ideas and practices upon Islam somewhat more complete. The conception which Muhammad formed of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in Unity is about as accurate as that which the last few paragraphs show that he enter tained with reference to the institution of the Lord's Supper. This is evident from the following passages: -
Surah V Al Maidah,, 116: "And when God said, 'O Jesus, Son of Mary, hast Thou said unto men, Take Me and My Mother as two gods besides God?'"
Surah IV An Nisa, 169: "O People of the Book, be not extravagant in your religion, and do not say concerning God other than the truth. Truly the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary. is the Apostle of God and His Word which He cast into Mary, and a Spirit from Him. Therefore believe ye in God and His apostle, and say not 'Three.' Cease! it is well for you! Truly God is One God. Far be it from Him that He should have a Son. To Him belongs whatever is in the Heavens and whatever is it, the Earth: and it sufficeth with God as a guardian."
Surah V., Al Maidah, 77 : 'They have indeed blasphemed who have said, 'Verily God is the Third of Three'; and there is no God but one God; and if they cease not from what they say. there shall surely touch those of them who have blasphemed a severe punishment"
These verses are explained by the commentators Jalalu'ddin and Yahya' as being the answer to the statement which Muhammad heard certain Christians make that there are three Gods, that is to say God the Father, Mary, and Jesus. It is perfectly plain frorn these verses that Muhammad really did believe that the Christian doctrine inculcated belief in three separate Divine Persons, Jesus and Mary being two of them. But our third quotation implies that Muhammad - probably from what he had seen of "Christian" worship - thought that the order was Jesus, Mary, God, or Mary, Jesus, God. No reasonable man will wonder at the indignation with which Muhammad in God's name abjures such blasphemy. We must all feel regret that the idolatrous worship offered to Mary led Muhammad to believe that people who called her "Queen of Heaven" and "Mother of God" really attributed to her Divine attributes. He rightly perceived that God was practically dethroned in her favour. Had he been taught that the doctrine of the Unity of God is the very foundation of the Christian faith (Deut. vi. 4. Mark xii. 29), he might have become a Christian reformer. He can never have heard the true explanation of the Doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, otherwise he would have learnt that Christian theologians spoke of the Father not as "the Third of Three" but as the 61 , the very "Font of Deity."
It should be noticed, however, that, though the undue exaltation of the Virgin Mary, which led Muhammad astray as to the true doctrine of the Bible, is contrary to the Christian faith, yet such false ideas and practices are distinctly encouraged by the teaching of many of the later apocryphal Gospels, particularly by those which formed the ultimate sources of Muhammad's knowledge of Christianity. We mention this to prevent the possibility of any Muhammadan reader supposing that he can find a way out of his difficulty by endeavonring to prove that such books as "The Nativity of Mary," "The Protevangelium of James the less," and the Arabic "Gospel of the Infancy" are more authentic monuments of the early Christian faith as taught by Christ than are the canonical books or the New Testament! Experience of the Muhammadan controversy renders the warning permissible.
It is well known that all Muhammadans have from the earliest times denied that Christ died on the Cross. In this they are supported by the Qur'an, which, in Surah IV., An Nisa, 156, represents the Jews as saying, "Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Apostle of God." Muhammad then in reply to them says, "And they slew Him not, and they crucified Him not, but He was represented unto them [by another] . . And they slew Him not really, but on the contrary God exalted Him unto Himself."
Muhammad's denial of the death of Christ on the Cross cannot be traced even to such untrustworthy authority as his favourite apocryphal Gospels. It is needless to say that he contradicts both the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles, though doubtless rnerely through ignorance. It seemed to him to be derogatory to the dignity of Christ to have been crucified and put to death by His enemies; and Muhammad was all the more convinced of this when he found his own enemies, the Jews, exulting at having slain Jesus. Hence he gladly adopted the assertion of certain heresiarchs, with whose views in other respects he had little in common. Several of these had, long before Muhammad's time, denied the actual suffering of Christ. Irenaeus tells us with reference to the teaching of the Gnostic heretic Basilides, who flourished about A.D. 120, that, in speaking of Jesus, he taught his deluded followers "That 62 He had not suffered; and that a certain Simon of Cyrene had been compelled to carry His cross for Him; and that this man was crucified through ignorance and error, having been changed in form by Him, so that it should be thought that he was Jesus Himself." This language coincides very closely with that of the Qur'an in this matter. Yet Muhammad would have repudiated the principle upon which this view, according to Irenaeus, was based: for Basilides held that Jesus was identical with or Mind, the first 63 emanation from the unknown God, and that He could not suffer because He had no real human body. This is absolutely opposed to the Qur'an, which asserts that Jesus, though a Prophet and Apostle, was a merely human person, possessed of a human body, born of a human mother, and destined to die at some time or other. We see therefore that Muhammad opposed the principle from which Basilides deduced a certain result, and yet accepted that result and recorded it in the Qur'an. This is such an utterly illogical proceeding that it cannot be attributed to anything but a very natural ignorance.
But this view regarding Christ's dying only in appearance and not in reality was not confined to Basilides. Photius (820-91 circa) in his Bitliotheca (Cod. 114) mentions the fact that in an apocryphal book called the "Travels 64 of the Apostles" it was asserted "that Christ had not been crucified, but another in His stead." Manes or Mani, the celebrated false prophet who at one time obtained so much influence in Persia, in a similar way held that "The 65 prince of darkness therefore was fastened to the cross, and the same person bore the crown of thorns." It cannot be said that Muhammad denies Christ's death on good authority, or that in doing so he is in good company.
Yet in several places in the Qur'an mention is made of the fact that Jesus was to die, like the rest of mankind. For example, in Surah III. Al Imran, 48, it is written: -
"When God' said, 'O Jesus, verily it is I that cause Thee to expire and that exalt Thee unto Myself and purify Thee from those that have disbelieved.'"
So also in Surah XIX., Maryam, 34, Jesus in the cradle is represented as saying: -
"And peace upon Me the day I was born and the day I shall die and the day I shall be raised up alive."
Commentators are not perfectly agreed as to the exact meaning of these passages. Some hold that when the Jews wished to crucify Christ, they seized and imprisoned Him and His Apost1es on the evening preceding the Paschal feast, intending to slay Him the next morning. But in the night God sent Him the message, "Thou must through Me undergo death, but immediately afterwards Thou shalt be taken up to Me and freed from the power of the unbelievers." Accordingly Jesus expired and remained dead for three hours. Other mention a longer period. Finally, however, Gabriel appeared and carried Him off through the window and up to heaven, without this being perceived by anyone. An unbelieving Jewish spy was mistaken for Him and crucified in His stead.66 But the more common, in fact the all but universal opinion of Muslims at the present day, is that which is supported by the Traditions contained in such works as the Qisasu'1 Anbiya67 and the 'Ardisu't Tijan68. In these books we are told that, when the Jews were besieging the house in which Jesus and His Apostles were, Gabriel took Jesus away through the roof or a window and carried Him off alive to the fourth heaven. Shuyugh, "King of the Jews," or a friend of his called Faltianus, entering the house to slay Jesns, was mistaken for Him and put to death. But nevertheless Jesus must die, and will return to earth to do so, and that is what is implied by Sarahs III., 48; XIX., 34; and also by Surah IV., 157, if this latter passage ("And there shall not be one of the People of the Book who shall not believe in Him before His death") refers to Christ's death, as many think. For "when Dajjal"69 the Accursed comes forth 70 and misleads and makes infidels of people, and the Imam Mahdi with a number of Muslims shall be in Jerusalem, then Jesus shall come forth and wage war with Dajjl, and shall slay him, and shall invite His own followers to accept the Muhammadan religion. Jesus will be of the Muhammadan faith, and He will give quarter to every one who believes in Islam, but He will slay every one who does not believe in Islam. From the East even unto the West shall He subdue the whole world and make its people Musalmans, and He shall set forth the validity of the Muhammadan religion to such a degree that in the whole world there shall not remain a single Infidel, and the world shall be fully civilized and richly blessed. And He shall perfect justice, so that the wolf and the elk shall drink water together, and He shall be wroth with the evildoers. Then, having in this way for forty years improved the world, He too shall taste the bitterness of death and shall leave the world. Then the Musalmans shall bury Him near the chamber of Muhammad the Chosen One."
What is said about the return of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom over the whole earth is evidently in accordance with and borrowed from Holy Scripture, especially from such passages as Acts I. II; Rev. I.7; Isa. xi. 1-10. But alas! "the trail of the Serpent is over it all," for it is asserted that Christ shall spread Islam with the sword! The reference to the overthrow of Antichrist is evidently based upon 2 Thess. ii. 8-10, and similar passages. But we must inquire from what source Muhammad has derived the idea that, after His second Advent, Christ is to die, if this is really the meaning of the verses from the Qur'an which we have quoted, and if any reliance is to be plated upon the Traditions which Baihaqi and others record as handed down from Muhammad's lips to that effect for every Christian knows that snob a fancy is absolutely contrary to Scripture (e.g. Rev. i. 17,18).
Here again certain Apocryphal works come to our aid. In an Arabic book (probably of Coptic origin) called "The Decease of our holy Father the old man Joseph the Carpenter," we are told regarding Enoch and Elijah, who ascended into heaven without dying, that "These men must come to the world at the end of time, in the day of trouble and fear and difficulty and oppression, and must dies, (cap. xxxi.)71. In a somewhat similar Coptic work entitled "The History of the Falling Asleep of Mary" we read almost the same words, "But as for these others" (Enoch and Elijah) "it is nececsary for them also finally to taste of death 72." Muhammad must have heard some such expression, for he says twice over in the Qur'an (Surah III., Al Imram, 182, and Surah XXIX., Al Ankabut, 57), "Every soul doth taste of death." Holding, as he apparently did, that Jesus ascended to heaven alive (Surah III.,48) it naturally followed, to his mind, that Christ also, like Enoch and Elijah, would necessarily die after his second Advent. Hence Christ's vacant tomb now lies ready for Him at Medina, between the graves of Muhammad and Abu Bakr!
Muhammadan Tradition also tells us that Christ shall take a wife after His return 73. This is due to a misunderstanding of such passages as Rev. xix. 7-9 where we read: "Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he saith unto me, Blessed are they which are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb." Of course the meaning of this allegorical passage is fully explained elsewhere (e.g. Rev. xxi. 2; Eph: V. 22-32) as referring to the perfect love and complete union in spiritual matters which will then exist between the Saviour and His purified and redeemed Church.
The statement that Christ is to live forty years 74 on the earth after His return must have originated in a misunderstanding of Acts i. 3, where we learn that He remained for forty days with His disciples after His Resurrection and before His Ascension.
There are a considerable number of passages in the Bible which Muhammadan controversialists endeavour to prove to be prophecies of Muhammad. But we have here to deal with only one small series of verses, since only in one place in the Qur'an do we find a clear assertion that Christ told His disciples to look for Muhammad's appearance; and it is to certain verses in St. John's Gospel that he evidently refers. In Surah LXI., As Saff, 6, Muhammad writes thus: -
"And when Jesus, Son of Mary, said, 'O Children of Israel, verily I am the Apostle of God unto you, confirming what was before Me of the Law, and proclaiming good tidings of an Apostle who shall come after Me: his name is Ahmad.'".
The reference here is to the coming of the Paraclete or "Comforter" spoken of in John xiv. 16,, 26; xv. 26; xvi. 7. We have already 75 pointed out that Muhammad was misled by some ignorant but zelous proselyte or other disciple, who confounded the word used in these verses with another Greek word , which might, without a very great stretch of the imagination, be interpreted by the Arabic word Ahmad, "the greatly praised," only, unfortunately for Muhammad, is not the word used, and by no possible effort can the term employed by our Lord be translated Ahmad. A little knowledge," even of Greek, may be "a dangerous thing;" and certainly the proverb was never better illustrated than in the Qur'an. Of course everyone who reads the passages in St. John's Gospel at all carefully will perceive that they contain no prophecy of any coming Prophet, and cannot possibly be made to suit any mere human being. Moreover, every Christian knows how the promise was fulfilled (Acts ii. 1-11). It is quite a mistake, on the other hand, to fane: that Muhammad claimed to be the Holy Spirit, whom the Muslims confound with Gabriel.
Before leaving this subject it may be as well to remind the reader that Muhammad was not the first to appeal to these verses as a prophecy of himself. It is well known that Mani 76 or Mane renowned in Persian fable as a wonderful painter, made the same claim to be the "person" referred to by Christ. Only Mani distinctly claimed to be the ' Paraclete," probably (like Muhammad) order to win over ill-informed Christians to his side. This is remarkable, for he rejected the historical Jesus and invented another for himself, who neither suffered nor died (Jesus impassibilis). A third point in which he resembled Muhammad was his claim to be the last and greatest of the prophets "the Ambassador of Light," which he identified with the Deity. He was less fortunate than Muhammad, however, since he was impaled by the command of Bahram I, of Persia, about 276 A. D. 77. Finally. he produced a book, called Artang 78 by Oriental writers, which he said had been sent down to him from heaven and contained the final revelation to men. His denial of Christ's sufferings originated in his acceptance of the Gnostic idea of the essential evil of all matter, and this made him deny that the true Jesus had a human body. In this respect he followed Basilides more logically than did Muhammad, as we have already seen.
In Surah III, Al Imran, 52, we read: -
"Verily the likeness of Jesus, according to God, is as the likeness of Adam;" and of the latter it is then added: "He created him out of earth; then He said to him, 'Be'; therefore he comes into being79."
With regard to the creation of Adam out of the
soil, Tradition tells us that when God Most High wished to create him, He sent one after another of the Archangels to take and bring Him a handful of earth. The Earth, knowing that many of Adam's descendants would be condemned to hell fire, adjured each of these messengers not to take away any portion of her substance. Hence they all except the last, 'Azrail, returned empty-handed. 'Azrail, however, took a handful of earth in spite of this adjuration, some say from the spot upon which the Ka'bah was afterwards built others from the whole surface of the earth. He brought it to God 80, saying, "O God, Thou knowest lo! I have brought it." Abu'l Fida, on the authority of Kamil ibn Athir, says, "The Prophet of God said, 'Verily God Most High created Adam from a handful which He took from the whole of the Earth, ..... and truly he was called Adam because he was created from the surface (adim) of the Earth.'"
This Tradition is interesting because it affords another instance of how much Islam is indebted to heretical ideas. The whole fable is borrowed from Marcion, as we learn from a quotation from one of the latter's writings which is given in Ezniq the Armenian's work entitled The Refutation of Heresies. In speaking of this heresiarch of the second century, Ezniq quotes 81 the following passage as containing some of his peculiar views, "And when the God of the law saw that this world was beautiful, He resolved to make Man out of it. And having descended unto the Earth, unto Matter , He saith, 'Give Me of thy clay and I shall give spirit from Myself.' . . . When Matter had given Him of her earth, He created him (Adam), and breathed spirit into him. . . And on this account he was named Adam, because he was made out of clay."
To understand this quotation we must remember that Marcion held the old Persian dualism to a great extent, believing that there are two First Causes, one perfectly good and the other perfectly evil. The Demiurgos or Creator of this lower world, who is here spoken of as the God of the Law because he gave the Law of Moses to the Jews, is just, but neither perfectly good nor perfectly evil, yet be is perpetually at war with the Evil Principle. He is therefore rather an archangel than a God, and in the Muhammadan legend appears as such. According to Marcion's view, the Demiurgos originally dwelt in the second heaven and was not at first aware of the existence of the Supreme Principle of Good, whom Marcion called the Unknown God. When he learnt His existence, the Demiurgos became hostile to Him, and began to try to prevent men from knowing God, lest they should transfer their worship to Him. Therefore the Supreme God sent Jesus Christ into the world to destroy the power of the God of the Law and that of the Evil Principle, and to lead men to a knowledge of the True God. Jesus was attacked by both these beings, but they could not hurt Him, as he had only the appearance of a body so that He might be visible to men, not a real body. Here again we find the Docetic principle which, though so contrary to Muhammad's general teaching, yet undeflies the denial of the crucifixion of Christ.
Much of what Marcion said about the Deniurgo agrees with the Muhammadan legend about 'Azazil, who became an inhabitant of the second heaven (and, according to some Traditions, of all the heavens) before he was cast out and received the names of Iblis and Shaitan (Satan). But both Marcion's and Muhammad's statement on this point are so evidently borrowed from Zoroastrian legends that we must reserve them for treatment in our next chapter.82
It is worthy of note that to the Demiurgos the titles of "Lord of the Worlds," "Creator of the Creatures," and "Prince of this World," were given by Marcion and his followers. The first two of these titles properly belong to God, and are used for Him by both Jews and Muslims. The third is borrowed from John xiv. 30, where it is given to Satan. Through an unfortunate mistake, Muhammadans understand this verse as a prophecy regarding Muhammad, and apply this title to their Prophet in consequence!
In connexion with the creation of Adam, the Qur'an repeatedly asserts that God commanded the angels to worship him. Among other verses to this effect we may adduce the following : -
Surah II., Al Baqarah,32, "And when We said to the angels, 'Worship Adam,' then they worshipped him, except Iblis."
Surahs XVII., Al Asra', 63; XVIII., Al Kahf, 48; and XX., Ta Ha, 115, contain the same statement in almost the same words.
This idea can hardly be derived from the Talmud, in which, though we are told that the angels showed Adam undue respect, yet it is distinctly stated that they did wrong. It is doubtless borrowed from a misapprehension of Heb. i. 6: "And again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, 'And let all the angels of God worship Him.'" Muhammad seems to have been greatly struck with this verse, and, since he (as usual) misunderstood it by fancying that 'the first-begotten83" meant not Christ but Adam, he repeatedly introduced its equivalent into the Qur'an. This may have been done as an argument against worship being offered to Christ, for in a verse already quoted (Surah III., 52) he tells us that in God's sight Jesus was just as Adam, doubtless in having no human father (as 'Abbasi and Jalalain explain it), but that lie was not to be accounted Divine on that account.
This strange idea is thus expressed in Surah XIX, Maryam, 69-73: -
Therefore, by thy Lord! We shall surely assemble them and the devils, then We shall surely make them present, kneeling, around Hell. There shall We take out from each sect whoso of them is most violent in rebellion against the Merciful One. Then indeed We are best aware concerning those who shall be first in it in burning: and there is none of you but goeth down into it. It has become concerning thy Lord a fixed decision."
This passage has caused much unhappiness to pious Muslims, even though they hope that the fire of hell will not injure them. Commentators have striven manfully to explain away the obvious meaning of the words by saying (though they are by no means agreed in this opinion) that what is meant is merely that all men, even true Muslims must come near to hell fire, and that they do this when they pass over the Bridge84 As Sirat on the Judgment Day. If this explanation be accepted the passage should be dealt with in Chapter v, when we are considering Zoroastrian influence on the origin of Islam. But it is more probable from the language of the verses we have quoted that here Muhammad expresses his belief in Purgatory. If so, he must have learnt this from the Christians of his day. Attempts have heen made to deduce this doctrine from Mark ix 49 and I Cor. iii. 13. It is possible, of course, that Muhammad had heard these verses read, and that he misunderstood them in this sense; but it is far more likely that he borrowed the error ready made. The "Testament of Abraham" tells us that each man's work is tried by fire, and that if the fire burns up any man's work, he is carried off to the place of torture by the angel who presides over fire. As, however, the meaning of this isolated passage in the Qur'an is somewhat uncertain, we need not inquire further into the origin of the doctrine of Purgatory.
Mention is made of the Balance (in which good deeds and bad are to be weighed at the Last Day) in several places in the Qur'an, the chief of which are: -
Surah VII., Al A'raf, 7,8: "And the weighing on that day shall be truth: therefore he whose scales are heavy - those are accordingly the prosperous; and he whose scales are light -those are accordingly those who shall have lost their own souls." Surah XXI., Al Anbiya, 48: "And We shall set the just scales for the Day of the Resurrection, therefore a soul shall not be wronged in anything; and if it were the weight of a grain of mustard. We should bring it; and it sufficeth with Us as accountants"
Surah XLII., Ash Shura', 16 "It is God who hath sent down the Book with truth, and the Balance."
Surah CI, Al Qari'ah, 5, 6 "Therefore as for him whose scales are heavy, be shall consequently be in a happy life; and as for him whose scales are light, his mother (i.e. abode) shall be lowest hell."
Commentators, on the authority of Tradition, explain these verses by informing us that on the Resurrection Day God will erect between Heaven and Earth a Balance having a tongue and two scales or pan. This will be reserved exclusively for the task of weighing men's good deeds and their bad ones, or the records in which these are set down. True believers wfll see that the scale into which their good deeds are cast will out weigh the other, which contains their evil deeds: while the scale containing the good deeds of unbelievers will be light, being outweighed by their evil ones. Not the very slightest good act of the believer will be left out of the account, nor will anything be added to his sins. Those whose good deeds preponderate will enter Paradise, but those whose good actions are outbalanced by their evil ones will be cast into Hell fire.
It has been pointed out that the idea of weighing men's actions occurs in the Talmud, e.g. in Rosh Hashshana'h, cap. 17. It may there be derived from Daniel v.27. But in this case the balance spoken or is a metaphorical one, and the "weighing" of Belshazzar does not take place on the Resurrection Day, or even after his death, but while he is still alive. We must look elsewhere for the origin of the Muhammadan conception, and we and it once more In an apocryphal book, the "Testament of Abraham85." This work seems to have been originally written in Egypt. It was known to Origen, and was probably composed either in the second century of our era, or not later than the third, by a Jewish convert to Christianity. It exists in two Greek recensions and also in an Arabic version. The resemblance between certain passages in this book and certain verses of the Qur'an and also later Muhammadan Tradition is too great to be merely fortuitous86. This is especially observable in what is told us in the "Testament of Abraham" in reference to the "Balance." It is there stated that when the Angel of Death came by God's command to take away Abraham's spirit, the patriarch made request that before dying he should be permitted to behold the marvels of heaven and earth. Permission being granted, he ascended to the sky under the leadership of the angel, and saw all things that were to be seen. When he reached the second heaven, he there perceived the Balance in which an angel weighs men's deeds, as the following passage explains: -
"In87 the midst of the two gates stood a throne, and on it sat a marvellous man... and before him stood a table like unto crystal, all of gold and fine linen. And on the table lay a book, its thickness was six cubits and its breadth ten cubits. And to the right and left of it (the table) there stood two88 angels, holding paper and ink and a pen. And in front of the table was seated a light-bearing angel, holding a Balance in his hand; and to the left sat a fiery angel, altogether merciless and stern, holding in his hand a trumpet, in which he kept an all consuming fire, the test of sinners. And the marvellous man who was seated on the throne was himself judging and proving the souls, but the two angels who were on the right and on the left were registering: the one on the right was registering the righteous acts, but the one on the left the sins. And the one in front of the table, the one who held tbe Balance, was weighing the souls; and the fiery angel who held the fire was testing the souls. And Abraham asked Michael, the general-in-chief, 'What are these things that we are heholding?' And the general-in-chief said, 'What thou seest, holy Abraham, is the judgment and retribution.'
The narrative goes on to state that Abraham saw that every soul whose good and bad deeds were equal was reckoned neither among the saved nor among the lost, but took his stand in a place between the two. This latter matter completely agrees with Muhammadan belief, which is said to rest upon Surah VII, Al A'raf, 44: "And between them both" (heaven and hell) "is a veil and upon the A'raf are men,'" and is also based upon Tradition.
It seerns impossible to doubt that Muhammad was indebted, directly or indirectl, for his teaching about the Balance to this apocryphal work, or to the same idea prevalent orally at the time and ultimately derived from Egypt. The probability is that he learnt it from Mary, his Coptic concubine. The conception of such a Balance for weighing men's deeds, good and bad, is a very ancient one in Egypt. We find it in the "Judgment Scene" of the Book of the Dead, so many copies of which have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Regarding this work Dr. Budge says, "It89 is quite certain that the Book of the Dead, in a connected fom, is as old as Egyptian civilization, and that its sources belong to prehistoric times to which it is impossible to assign a date. We first touch solid ground in the history of the Book of the Dead in the period of the early dynasties, and, if we accept one tradition which was current in Egypt as early as B.C. 2,500, we are right in believing that certain parts of it are, in their present form, as old as the time of the First Dynasty." Regarding its authorship he says, "From90 time immemorial the god Thoth, who was both the Divine Intelligence which at creation uttered the words that were carried into effect by Ptah and Khnemu, and the Scribe of the Gods, was associated with the production of theBook of the Dead." The object of burying a copy of this Book along with the mummy was that the dead man might receive instruction from it and learn how to avoid the various dangers he would encounter in the next world. We learn from it a great deal of the religious ideas of the Egyptians. The vignette which represents the Judgment of the soul, which probably (as in the "Testament of Abraham") took place soon after death, varies in different copies, though they all preserve the same general outline. A form which is often found 91 shows us two gods, Horus and Anubis, engaged in weighing a man's heart in one scale of the Balance against the image of Maat, the goddess of Truth and Right, which is placed in the other scale. Another god, Thoth - in Egyptian Tehuti is writing down the dead man's account on a scroll. Over the Balance is written "The Osiris lives justified. In its place the Balance is level in the midst of the Divine Judgnent-Hall. He says, 'As for his heart, let his heart enter into its place in Osiris so and so the Justified.' May Thoth, the great god in the city of Heseret, lord of the city Hermopolis, lord of the words of Thoth, say this." The bestowal of the name of Osiris on the dead man as well as his own name (for the insertion of which a place is left vacant) signifies that, being justified in the judgment, he has become identified with the god Osiris, the supreme deity or the ancient Egyptians, and is tberefore safe from the assaults of the evil powers.
In front of the figure of the divine scribe Thoth stands a terrible animal, something like a bitch. This was supposed to devour the wicked. Over its head is written, "Conqueror of enemies by swallowing them, lady of Hades, hound of Hades." Near this animal them stands an altar full of offerings, placed in front of the entrance to the inner shrine. Within the shrine, seated on a throne. is Osiris himself, the "Good Being," holding in one hand a sceptre and in the other a scourge. He sits as judge, prepared to deal with the dead man's spirit according to what Thoth may write in the roll regarding the result of weighing his heart in the Balance. In front of Osiris is an inscription containing some of his titles. It may be read thus: "Osiris, the Good Being, God, Lord of Life, the great God, lord of futurity, Chief of Paradise and Hell, in Hades, the great God, lord of the city of Abt, king of past eternity, God." Beneath his throne the words "Life and Health" are written several times.
It is evident from a comparison of this picture with what we have read in the "Testament of Abraham" and in the Qur'an that the "Balance" mentioned in the Qur'an and the Traditions of Muhammad is ultimately derived from the ancient Egyptian mythology, through the medium of Coptic Christian ideas92 which are mentioned in the Testament of Abraham," having been handed down orally during generation after generation in Egypt, the land of their birth.
In Surah XVlI., Al Asra', I, we read a brief account of Muhammad's mythical journey to heaven, which occupies a very extensive place in Muhammadan Tradition. The words of this verse may be rendered thus:-
Praise be to Him who caused His servant to journey by night from the Sacred Mosque93 to the Farther Mosque 94 whose enclosure We have blessed, that We might show him of Our signs.
Regarding this Mi;raj of Muhammad, as it is called, we shall have to treat at some length in the next chapter95. Here we refer to it in order to introduce a Tradition concerning one part of Muhammad's experience on that famous journey. In the Mishkat'l Masabih we are told of a scene which he saw on entering the lowest of the seven Heavens: -
"Then96 when He opened to us the lowest heaven, lo! a man seated: at his right hand were black figures and at his left hand were black figures. When he glanced towards his right he laughed, and when he glanced towards his left he wept....I said to Gabriel, 'Who is this.' He said, 'This is Adam, and these black figures on his right hand and on his left hand are the souls of his children; and those of them that are on the right are to be the people of Paradise, and the black figures which are on his left are to be the people of the Fire. Therefore when he looked towards his right he laughed, and when he looked towards his left side he wept.'"
This Tradition also may be traced back to the apocryphal "Testament of Abraham," as the following extract proves: -
Michael97 turned the chariot and carried Abraham towards the East, at the first gate of Heaven. And Abraham Saw two ways; the one way strait and narrow and the other broad and wide; and there he saw two gates, one gate broad, corresponding to the broad way, and one gate strait, corresponding to the strait way. And outside of the two gates there I saw a man seated upon a throne covered with gold: and the appearance of that person was terrible, like unto the Lord. And I saw many souls being driven by angels and being led through the broad gate; and I saw other souls, a few, and they were being borne by angels throngh the strait gate. And when the marvellous man who was seated on this golden throne saw few entering through the strait gate but many entering through the broad gate immediately that marvellons man seized the hair of his head and the sides of his beard and hurled himself from the throne to the ground, weeping and wailing. And when he saw many souls entering through the strait gate, then he would rise up from the ground and seat hiniseif upon his throne in great gladness, rejoicing and exulting. Abraham asked the general-in-chief" (the archangel Michael), "'My lord, the general-in-chief, who is this altogether marvellous man who is adorned with such splendour, and who at one time weeps and wails, but at another rejoices and exults?' The bodiless one said, 'This is Adam, the first created person, who is in such glory, and he beholds the world, since all were (born) from him: and when he sees many souls entering throngh the strait gate, then he rises and sits down upon his throne, rejoicing and exulting in gladness, because this strait gate is that of the just, which leadeth unto life, and those who enter through it go into Paradise: and on this account does Adam the first-created rejoice, because he perceives souls being saved. And when he sees many souls entering through the broad gate, then he rends the hair of his head and hurls himself to the ground, weeping and wailing bitterly. For the broad gate is that of sinners, which leads unto destruction and unto eternal punishment'"
Finally it may be asked, Has Muhammad borrowed nothing from the New Testament itself, since he has derived such a considerable amount of his teaching from apocryphal Christian sources?
In answer to this we are obliged to admit that he borrowed very little indeed from the New Testament. From it he rnay be said indirectly to have learnt that Jesus was born without a human father, that He had a Divine commission, wrought miracles, had a number of Apostles, and ascended to heaven. Muhammad denied the Deity, the atoning death (and consequently the Resurrection) of Christ, and taught a great deal that was contrary to the leading doctrines of the Gospel, being desirous of himself supplanting Christ and prevailing on men to admit his own claim to be the last and greatest of the Messengers of God. We have seen that in the Qur'an and the Traditions we find distorted references to certain passages of the New Testament, as for instance in what is said about the descent of the Table, and the supposed prophecy of Muhammad's coming. But there is only one passage in the Qur'an which may be said to contain a direct qoutation from the Gospels. This is found in Surah VII., Al A'raf, 38, where we read: -
"Verily they who have accused Our signs of falsehood . ., unto thern the gates of heaven shall not be opened, nor shall they enter Paradise until the camel entereth in at the eye of the needle'" This is almost a literal quotation from Luke xviii. 25: "It is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Very similar words occur also in Matt. xix. 24, and Mark x. 25.
In the Traditions, moreover, there is one striking instance of a quotation from the Epistles, and it is a favourite with many thoughtful Muslims, who have not the slightest idea that it comes from the Bible. Abu Hurairah is reported 98 to have attributed to Muhammad the statement that God Most High had said I have prepared for My righteous servants what eye hath not seen nor heard of a human being." It will be readily recognized that these words are a quotation from I Cor. ii. 9. Whether Abu Hurairah, surnamed the liar, has spoken the truth in asserting that he heard this passage quoted by Muhammad may well be doubted. Yet the passage in Surah LXXV., 22, 23, "Faces in that day shall be brightened, gazing at their Lord," which refers to the Beatific Vision99 and is a reminiscence of I John iii. 2, and I Cor. xiii. 72, lends sorne support to his statement.
From a careful examination of the whole subject dealt with in this chapter we therefore conclude that the influence of true and genuine Christian teaching upon the Qur'an and upon Islam in general has been very slight indeed, while on the other hand apocryphal traditions and in certain respects heretical doctrines have a claim to be considered as forming one of the original sourees of the Muhammadan faith100.
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